Agra: A 12-year-old boy succumbed to 16 hours of excruciating pain in Agra after half-a-dozen nursing homes and hospitals allegedly refused to treat him, fearing that he might be Covid-19 positive.
Nihal Singh, the deceased, was suffering from acute stomach pain. After being turned away from six private nursing homes and hospitals, when his father finally took him to the government-run S.N. Medical College, they were told that it was meant for Covid patients only and he would be treated in the same ward as these patients.
When Nihal’s condition started worsening Saturday morning, the family approached the police and the district magistrate for help, and was asked to go back to the S.N. Medical College. But Nihal couldn’t make it back to the government hospital and died that morning.
For Nihal’s family, the intervening 16 hours brought unbearable agony, with doctors at the various hospitals and nursing homes telling them “door raho, door raho (stay away, stay away)”, suspecting it could be a case of Covid-19.
His father Lakhan, a daily wager and resident of Oliya Road in Chhipitola, recalled: “My son was getting treated for stomach ache and on 24 April he developed acute pain. We immediately called the local doctor, who prescribed some medicines. Despite taking the medicines, his condition kept deteriorating.
“At around 11 am, we rushed Nihal to the hospital in Sanjay Place, but the staff flatly refused to admit. After this, we went to five different hospitals one by one, but they all refused or they were shut.”
At the S.N. Hospital, when the doctors said he would be kept in the same ward as coronavirus patients, Lakhan said: “We naturally refused as my son did not have corona. We just went from one hospital to another and wasted precious time.”
Nihal’s mother Anita, inconsolable with grief, complained that no hospital even took a look at her child.
Hospital listed in ad put out by DM
A family member, who did not wish to be named, said they had called up a hospital official for help, who asked them to speak to the Chief Medical Officer. “We kept calling the CMO but our call went unanswered,” the family member alleged.
“All this while, the child was writhing in pain. This happened at a time when the DM has issued orders to five private hospitals to treat all serious patients, as government ones are treating corona patients. We went to one of the listed nursing homes too, but they also refused,” the relative said.
Another member of the family, Pradeep Bhante, said: “We rushed him to the nursing home at around 6:50 am, but the staff refused and then I called the police to intervene, as this nursing home was part of the five hospitals which, according to newspaper advertisements put out by the DM, were supposed to treat serious patients.”
The hospital Nihal’s relatives are referring to is the Shanti Mangalick Hospital, which was part of the advertisement put out by the DM. Its manager G. Singh disagreed with the family’s statement about the child’s symptoms, but also expressed helplessness at the situation.
“The child had breathlessness, high fever and that’s why we told the family we don’t have facilities to treat him, so take him to S.N. Medical college. They called the police, and even the police gave the same suggestion, as our physicians are quarantined,” the manager said.
On why the administration had put the hospital’s name in its ad if it wasn’t able to attend to patients, G. Singh said: “We had told the administration that while you have included our name in the list, we will not be able to deal with cases in two or three departments as our physicians are quarantined.”
The other five hospitals are not being named in this report as they did not answer telephone calls when ThePrint reached out to them for comment.
‘What if it was the DM’s son?’
Recounting the family’s conversation with the police, Bhante said: “Police officials came and took us to the police station in Taj Ganj. When we explained the entire situation, they said we should post our complaint on Twitter and tag Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the DM office.”
Unaware of how to operate Twitter, the family reached the DM’s residence in the hope of finding help. “We went to the DM’s residence as my son’s condition started to worsen. We were told to go to S.N. Medical College, but by the time we reached, it was too late and I lost my son,” said father Lakhan.
Another family member said: “He needed oxygen immediately. I can assure you, had he been given treatment on time, he would have been fine. You tell me one thing, are hospitals going to treat coronavirus patients only? Do people not have any other illnesses? If he had been the son of the DM or any other official, would the hospitals have refused?”
Bhante added: “The hospitals were so scared of admitting our child… Despite us telling them he had stomach pain, they kept saying ‘door raho, door raho’ to us.”
The family members now want to file an FIR in the matter, and want the Uttar Pradesh government to take strict action against the DM too. “If he can’t handle Agra he should be removed,” said Lakhan Singh.
Senior Superintendent of Police Bablu Kumar said they are conducting an inquiry. “It is an unfortunate incident and we have taken note of it. We are inquiring into the matter,” he told ThePrint.
Several calls and messages to Agra DM Prabhu N. Singh remained unanswered. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) asked ThePrint to meet him Sunday, but was also unavailable.
Agra has reported 10 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, DM Singh said Monday, according to agencies. The total number of positive cases in the district now stands at 381.